Instead of Problems in Store, how about a Plan with Vision?
‘We all want Waitrose in Guildford. We can all see the benefits of their fine produce and service. But we should be urging our elected councillors to press for a more imaginative and sustainable solution for the proposed Waitrose site off York Road, and for the many other town centre sites the Council’s Executive wish to see developed.’
Thus says John Rigg, chair of Guildford Vision Group (GVG), the group of concerned Guildford residents calling for a more visionary Master Plan for the town, claiming the site off York Road is a stark example of planning short-termism of a kind that bedevils any chance to use economic development to improve Guildford’s creaking infrastructure. GVG also point to the plans for the station redevelopment, fearing that the long term implications of short termism, taken for immediate financial gain, will prohibit any future bold moves to improve, for example, Guildford’s dreadful traffic blight.
This is not to say that GVG is against substantial redevelopment be it at the station or elsewhere. What GVG is calling for is:
- A moratorium on major development in the town centre until a comprehensive study has been carried out by independent experts into the gyratory system, its feeder roads and their respective capacities;
- A clear strategy to re-connect Guildford – the railway divides the town and, with no new rail crossing for 100 years, adds to the pressure on the town centre;
- The ability for pedestrians to move freely between visitor attractions, transport hubs, shops, residential areas and schools without having to fight with the traffic;
- An appropriate gateway from the station to the Cathedral and University – the latter being a major economic contributor to Guildford – poorly served by its lack of connectedness; and
- A long term sustainable plan where developments fit into a strategy that works towards more social and amenity space along the River Wey, encouraging visitors and business to come to Guildford;
The Interim Town Centre Framework document, the replacement Town Centre Master Plan, seems to GVG to be an exercise in making a plan justify the developments that are being proposed. Landowners and developers are waiting on the Council to adopt a favourable plan before submitting planning applications on sites the Framework Document earmarks for redevelopment. GVG are aware the Council’s Executive have it in mind to adopt the Town Centre Framework document without commissioning further research or undertaking additional public consultation. As a result GVG are adamant a bad plan will breed bad decisions and even poorer long-term outcomes including further gridlock.
GVG have proposed that Waitrose and its stable-mate, John Lewis, consider coming together in a more imaginative joint development and extension of the Friary Centre with links to car parking. A linked John Lewis/Waitrose would kick start the long awaited Friary extension utilising the existing Friary’s much better pedestrian links and transport connections. It would also enable the York Road site to be a model of town centre residential development as the existing Local Plan intended. It would not frustrate longer term plans for town traffic management – indeed it should enable significant contributions to long-term highway improvements to be made as part of the planning process through the community infrastructure levy. It would be a win-win all round, and almost certainly provide a much better return for ratepayers.
John Rigg added: ‘The key to Guildford’s future, as a town fit for the 21st century, is a well-thought out, research-based Master Plan that addresses all aspects of life in Guildford and tackles the blight of traffic, rather than piecemeal development such as we’re seeing now. Guildford deserves much better. We must draw on the experience of professional urban planners who have helped transform towns and cities like Cambridge, St Albans and Stratford-upon-Avon, but with full engagement with stakeholders and with Guildford Borough Council and Surrey County Council combining to ensure that what we get is a well-thought-out comprehensive plan especially suited to Guildford.’
To help its campaign, GVG is calling on all residents and businesses to complete the online Questionnaire on its website www.guildfordvisiongroup.com
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Notes for Editors
Guildford Vision Group seeks to work collaboratively with councillors, council officers and all stakeholders to ensure Guildford sustains and improves its appeal as one of the most attractive locations in the South East in which to live, work and spend leisure time.
For more information see www.guildfordvisiongroup.com or contact Yvonka Wilkinson, Campaign Manager, Vision for Guildford Ltd on 07767 251040
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